Monthly Archives: August 2018

Flu season is upon us!

Amazingly we see September approaching which brings the start of autumn including darker nights and cooler weather.  For clinicians working across the NHS this means the start of the annual flu immunisation campaign.

We have been reasonably lucky in the last few winters in that we have not had a significant outbreak in our local area. However, the flu virus’s ability to transform itself allows it penetrate our natural immunity and so to ensure you and your family are protected it is important to get the flu vaccination. This is especially true for people who are in an at risk group. These groups are:

  • all those aged two and three on 31 August 2018 – we vaccinate children to stop them spreading it to those who are more likely to get poorly with it.
  • all children in reception class and school years 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5
  • all primary school-aged children in former primary school pilot areas
  • people aged from six months to less than 65 years of age with a serious medical condition such as:
  • chronic (long-term) respiratory disease, such as severe asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or bronchitis
  • chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
  • chronic kidney disease at stage three, four or five
  • chronic liver disease
  • chronic neurological disease, such as Parkinson’s disease or motor neurone disease
  • learning disability
  • diabetes
  • splenic dysfunction or asplenia
  • a weakened immune system due to disease (such as HIV/AIDS) or treatment (such as cancer treatment)
  • morbidly obese (defined as BMI of 40 and above)
  • all pregnant women (including those women who become pregnant during the flu season)
  • people aged 65 years or over (including those becoming age 65 years by 31 March 2019)
  • people living in long-stay residential care homes or other long-stay care facilities where rapid spread is likely to follow introduction of infection

Flu injections can be obtained at your GP surgery and some pharmacies and are free if you are in an at risk group. Contact your surgery to find out when they are running their flu clinics and make sure you attend. In addition vaccinations for staff in front line health and social care roles can contact their employers for vaccination details.

Over The Counter Medication Guidance

New guidance has been published for prescribing of medication available to buy over the counter without a prescription.

Your GP, nurse or pharmacist will not generally give you a prescription for over the counter medicines for a range of minor health concerns.

Instead, over the the counter medicines are available to buy in a pharmacy or supermarket in your local community.

The team of health professionals at your local pharmacy can offer help and clinical advice to manage minor health concerns, and if your symptoms suggest it’s more serious they’ll ensure that you get the care you need.

You may still be prescribed an over the counter medicine if:

  • You need treatment for a long-term condition, e.g. regular pain relief for chronic arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease
  • You need treatment for more complex forms of minor illnesses, e.g. migraines that are very bad and where over the counter medicines do not work
  • You need an over the counter medicine to treat a side effect of a prescription medicine or symptom of another illness, e.g. constipation when taking certain painkillers

A patient information leaflet explaining the changes is available to download here

Millions miss out on vital health checks that could save lives

Recent analysis from Diabetes UK shows that less than half of over 40s eligible for an NHS Health Check in the last five years have actually received one.

Launched in England in 2009, the programme offers a five-yearly check-up to everyone aged 40 to 74 with the aim of spotting the early signs of Type 2 diabetes, stroke, kidney disease, heart disease and dementia.

Between 2013 and 2018, the population of people eligible to receive an NHS Health Check in England totalled 15.5 million, but only 6.8 million (44 per cent) went on to receive one.

There is significant regional variation of NHS Health Checks across England. In the East of England 50 per cent of the eligible population attended the health check between 2013 and 2018, but in the South West this figure was even lower at only 35 per cent.

On a local authority level this variation is greater still, with a five-fold variation between the best and worst performing local authorities. Walsall is the only local authority in England where almost all of the eligible population received a health check at 99 per cent, Bolton at 91.7 per cent and Westminster at 91 per cent. The worst performing areas are the East Riding of Yorkshire and Croydon with 18 per cent, and followed closely by Surrey at 18.6 per cent.

Since 2013, local authorities have a legal duty to ‘seek continuous improvement’ in the numbers of people in their area having a health check, with funding from Public Health England. However, only 55 local authorities delivered more NHS Health Checks in 2017-2018 than they did in 2015-2016, while the remaining 97 delivered fewer.

Diabetes UK is urging local authorities to do more to get people to their health check, as this is a vital route for referral into the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme for those who are found to be at high risk of Type 2 diabetes.

There are 12.3 million people at increased risk of developing diabetes and knowing their risk could help them prevent the onset of the condition. It is also estimated that there are nearly 1 million people currently living with Type 2 diabetes who don’t know they have it because they haven’t been diagnosed.

Robin Hewings, Head of Policy at Diabetes UK, said:“The success of the programme in certain areas is due to local councils working hard to make it easier for people to attend these free health checks that only take 15 minutes and can help keep people healthy.

“It is absolutely vital that all people who are eligible in every area get a health check. If left undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes can lead to devastating complications, including blindness, amputations, stroke and kidney failure, but with the right treatment and support people living with the condition can lead a long, full and healthy life.”

To find out your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, go to

Tell Us YOUR Views on Rheumatology Services

Clinicians and Commissioners across County Durham, Darlington and Tees are working together to help improve Rheumatology services for patients.

Rheumatology deals with the investigation, diagnosis and management of patients with arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions. This a range of disorders affecting joints, bones, muscles and soft tissues (this includes inflammatory arthritis, autoimmune disorders, vasculitis, soft tissue conditions and metabolic bone diseases).

The aim of the improvement project is to offer a more consistent service to patients no matter where they live across the County Durham, Darlington and Tees area, and ensure patients are seen in the right place, by the right clinician, first time.

Patients can help the process by filling in a short survey, which can be found HERE

Patients have until Friday September 7 to fill in the survey.

This bank holiday think GP or pharmacy before A&E

Patients across the South Tees are are being asked to help ease pressure on NHS accident and emergency services over the August bank holiday.

NHS England is urging people to see a pharmacist or make an appointment to see a GP for non-emergency health issues.

Although some GP practices are closed over the bank holiday weekend, the NHS has been working to ensure people can access a GP appointment or pharmacist should they need advice or treatment for a wide range of minor illnesses or ailments.

If people need urgent advice for something serious, but are not sure whether to go to A&E, the NHS 111 service provides advice from qualified clinicians and in some cases can even make a GP appointment direct. For most people, this will mean quicker treatment than attending an A&E department.

NHS England’s Medical Director for Cumbria and the North East, Professor Chris Gray, said: “Many GPs have extended opening hours and pharmacists across the region are open for business over the bank holiday, but please make sure you order your prescriptions early before the holiday weekend.

“Emergency departments get extremely busy during holiday periods and we want to ensure that people who can be cared for elsewhere are not waiting at A&E.

“For minor illnesses, your local pharmacist is an excellent source of help and should be your first point of contact, and health advice is available on the website.

“In all cases, if you think someone is more seriously injured or ill, you should seek medical advice as soon as possible. Further advice can be sought from your GP surgery or by calling NHS 111. In an emergency, dial 999 for an ambulance.”

Around 18 million GP appointments and 2.1 million visits to A&E are for self-treatable conditions – such as coughs and tummy troubles – at a cost of more than £850 million each year to the NHS. This is the equivalent of more than 220,000 hip replacements or 880,000 cataract operations.

The North East Urgent and Emergency Care Network website has advice on what to include in a first aid kit and which services are open, including local pharmacy times.

If you care for children, the child health app is free and offers a wealth of advice and support: